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AI meets Beethoven

With the help of artificial intelligence, a team of music and AI experts completed Ludwig van Beethoven’s 10th Symphony

November 04 2021

The symphony from a virtual pen

Who could have thought that AI could have anything to do with creativity? Thinking forward to Beethoven’s 10th symphony? Telekom, of course. On the occasion of the Beethoven year 2020, Telekom dared to attempt this unique experiment: to complete Ludwig van Beethoven’s 10th Symphony with the help of artificial intelligence. Naturally, AI did not compose the piece alone. Ten music and AI professionals participated in “Beethoven X – The AI Project” and completed the 10th Symphony together. The world premiere with the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under the direction of General Music Director, Dirk Kaftan, took place in Bonn on October 9, 2021.

AI and creativity – how can that be possible?

Violin snail on sheet of music

How human is AI? Can it engage our emotions? While AI can learn a lot and very quickly, handle a lot of data, recognize connections, form hypotheses and find errors, it doesn’t know what feels right. It follows the rules we set for it and can help us recognize previously unrecognized patterns. Its results are good to very good, but never divine. It cannot master melody. Only Beethoven can do that. But the results of AI inspire creativity in artists.

I would like us to view new technologies as an opportunity, which requires humans and machines to work together.

Tim Höttges, CEO Deutsche Telekom

How AI learned to be Beethoven

To complete the 10th symphony, the AI was fed not only with Beethoven’s compositions and notes, but also the works by composers and musicians who demonstrably inspired and influenced Beethoven. Interacting with the experts, the algorithm then completed Beethoven’s unfinished work. The composer, Walter Werzowa, and the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn turned his notation into a living work.

How much Beethoven is there in the work?

Opinions differ widely in this regard. Nevertheless, it is time to address the issue of AI and for companies and society as a whole to overcome their reservations. “This is not Beethoven,” said Music Director Kaftan at the post-performance discussion – even if it was a version that could have come from the composer’s pen. The composer Werzowa had a different opinion: “The AI is absolutely objective and has found the pure essence of Beethoven. We brought in the subjective, but the spirit of Beethoven is there.”

Ode to the future

The experiment opened a new door for AI to dive into the creative world. It shows that AI can serve as a tool to try new things. Companies can also benefit from the use of artificial intelligence. It is not without reason that two out of three companies in the Bitkom survey consider it to be the most important technology of the future. Companies use AI to cut their costs, to be more sustainable and to implement, e.g. new concepts for New Work. AI allows us to experiment and be creative.

We at T-Systems very much welcome this project, because it shows where the future is headed. Neither the AI nor humans could have finished the symphony alone in this way, which again shows that AI can never replace humans, but it can support and inspire them.

More about Beethoven X - The AI Project

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